The Paterson Wagon Company, later renamed the Paterson Vehicle Company, was founded in 1886 by Everett Abbot Cooper, my great-grandfather. They began building and selling carriages, business wagons, harness, horse goods and bicycles using the tag line in their letterhead, “Everything for a Horse.” By 1900 they added “Automobiles. Rubber Tires” to their letterhead and dropped bicycles thereby keeping up with the evolving transportation industry. Interestingly, Henry Ford would not enter auto manufacturing until 1903 and didn’t vow to make a “motor car for the great multitude” until 1907 thereby creating the first mass-produced car, the Model T, in 1908. The Coopers were, indeed, pioneers in the nascent auto-building industry.
In 1927, Everett and his sons decided to add on to their automobile, truck and bus body building business by offering Silk City Diners. Why Silk City Diners? Because, at the time, Paterson, N.J. was the center of the silk trade and manufacturing industry in the U.S.
Irving Brooks Cooper, one of the five sons involved in the business, had a propensity for engineering and was named Vice President in charge of design and production. He later went on to design an “arched floor” system that prevented the floor of a diner from sagging after the equipment was installed as well as with a number of other improvements. He filed for a patent on April 21, 1937 and received Patent No. 2107854 on Feb 8, 1938.
What made Paterson Vehicle Company so unique was that they discontinued building custom-made diners, as was the standard of their industry, and picked up on Henry Ford’s idea of ”mass production” and applied it to diners. They built six to eight units at a time using different color schemes, and were able to offer lower-priced diners with a “4 Year Payment Plan”, which they aggressively advertised.
The Paterson Vehicle Company went on to become one of the most prolific builders of that most nostalgic of American icons, The Diner.